Huawei Adds Dual-Frequency GPS to New Watch GT 3

Huawei announced their latest sport-focused watch today, the Huawei Watch GT 3, available in both 46mm and 42mm configurations. While the watch looks like many other AMOLED display smartwatches, it actually has substantially better battery life than you’d expect, with claims of up to 14 days for the 46mm and 7 days for the 42mm.

But what interested me most was the inclusion of dual-channel GNSS to the watch, matching COROS’s recent inclusion on the Vertix 2 back in August. Dual-channel or dual-frequency systems potentially allow for far greater accuracy of tracks by dramatically increasing the number of satellites a watch can connect to. In practice (my real-world testing of the Vertix 2), the system hasn’t meaningfully changed day-to-day accuracy. But it has, in some cases, improved challenging terrain accuracy (namely around cliffs). However, while the tech today is still evolving, I suspect we’ll see significant software-driven update gains over the next year as companies spend more time with the chipsets and optimize them further. Most GPS chipsets seem to take about 12-18 months worth of updates before we see manufacturers really nailing all the edge cases.

In any event, back on the GT 3, while I haven’t typically covered Huawei in the past (simply due to low demand from the athletic/sport side I usually float in), I figured some of these tidbits were noteworthy. There’s a slate of interesting items mentioned in the media briefing that at the very least caught my attention, and then perhaps deeper digging down the road with real hands-on usage to see if they meet their claims.

Tech Specs:

Thus, in no particular order, here’s a slate of things I found interesting from a media briefing call I had about the watches yesterday.

Dual-Band GNSS: The GT 3 will support GPS, Galileo, Beidou, GLONASS, and QZSS – all within the dual-frequency system. The company says that the “positioning speed” was improved by more than 50%, and that they’ve added “stronger anti-interference performance”. Obviously at this point since you don’t see my own photos in this post, I haven’t had the opportunity to validate these claims.

New Optical HR Sensor: The company spent a fair bit of time talking about their new optical HR sensor. Their new TruSeen 5.0 sensor package doubles the number of light signal receivers from 4 to 8, while implementing a curved underside/back of the watch (like all other companies). They also said they added a Fresnel optical film to the back of the sensor, which they say concentrates both the light output from the sensor, but also the receiving input. The Fresnel lens has effectively the same effect as it does in a lighthouse, to concentrate light.

As a result of that, the company says they’ve made a unit more accurate than the Apple Watch Series 6. That’d be a reasonably impressive feat if so since that’s regarded as one of the most accurate optical HR sensors on the market. I found it slightly funny in their slides that they referred to the “Apple Watch Series 6” as “A Watch 6”. Here’s my data-accurate recreation of that slide:

Sprinting (Run):
Huawei Watch GT3: 94.6%
Apple Watch Series 6: 91.2%

Freestyle Swimming:
Huawei Watch GT3: 93.2%
Apple Watch Series 6: 92.2%

Skipping Rope:
Huawei Watch GT3: 94.4%
Apple Watch Series 6: 91.8%

While I’ve never seen skipping rope used in accuracy testing for an optical HR sensor, I’ll give them credit that in theory, that’s one of the more challenging things you could throw at an optical HR sensor, due to the heavy cadence-driven pounding from jumping. On the flip side, they noted that all of these were percentages based on being within 5 BPM of the chest strap. 5 BPM isn’t horrible, but it’s also not amazing either. I’d preferred to have seen 1-2 BPM (which is where I usually see the Apple Watch Series 6 and Series 7 at). This doesn’t mean these results are invalid, but just that we can’t actually see the real charts behind it.

No More FirstBeat Metrics: While not often talked about, Huawei has long used FirstBeat metrics within their platform for a variety of data metrics. These have included VO2Max, Aerobic/Anaerobic Training Effect, Recovery Time, Stress, and more. And all of those data pages are still there – except, now Huawei says they’re using their own algorithms and have ditched FirstBeat. I’m skeptical on how the accuracy of these metrics will be maintained, given we’re not just talking about a handful of easy to achieve metrics like VO2Max, but also other more complicated metrics like training effect and recovery time. Notably, the user interface remains virtually identical to when they were powered by FirstBeat.

Battery Life: The 46mm unit claims 14 days of battery life in typical use, with 8 days if in heavy use. Whereas the 42mm unit claims 7 days in typical use and 4 days in heavy use. Actually, here, let me make a little table of these claims. I actually really like the way Huawei has clarified this:

Huawei Watch GT3 46mm:

Typical Use: 14 days with 30 mins of BT calling each week, 30 mins of music playing, heart rate 24×7 monitoring, sleep tracking, 90 minutes of GPS workouts each week, and for notifications it’d be 50 texts, 6 calls, and 3 alarms per day. Inclusive of the screen turning on 200 times a day.

Heavy Use: 8 days with all the same details above, but with 180 minutes of GPS workouts each week (3 hours)

Huawei Watch GT3 42mm:

Typical Use: 7 days with 30 mins of BT calling each week, 30 mins of music playing, heart rate 24×7 monitoring, sleep tracking, 90 minutes of GPS workouts each week, and for notifications it’d be 50 texts, 6 calls, and 3 alarms per day. Inclusive of the screen turning on 200 times a day.

Heavy Use: 4 days with all the same details above, but with 180 minutes of GPS workouts each week (3 hours)

A Shamrock: The company is introducing their “Health Living Clover”, which aims to flower to show your full lifestyle potential as you increase your sleep, complete your steps, and complete mindfulness (breathing) activities). In other words, it’s basically marketed as the most healthy Lucky Charms Leprechaun tracking UI you’ve ever seen. The concept is fairly straightforward, and eventually, once you’ve fulfilled all your petals then it changes color into a green shamrock.

The Display: As noted, the GT3 includes an AMOLED display which is 1.32″ (42mm variant) and 1.43″ (46mm variant), both at 466x466px. Note that in the battery life configurations spec’d, those aren’t in always-on display mode.

Odds and Ends: Beyond that, the GT  3 contains some 100 sport modes and support for apps. It also has automatic training plan recommendations in conjunction with its app, recommending specific workouts as part of a broader multi-week plan towards a given event. The unit also has an app store, though, there doesn’t seem to be many apps that you’d know of there. Because this isn’t Wear OS or any of the other big wearable app platforms heavily leveraged by developers, there’s less choice here. Instead, it’s HarmonyOS 2.1. Interestingly, on the GT 3 media briefing slides here as well as the earlier Watch 3 slides this past spring, they included the Komoot logo. Except, that app still isn’t actually available best I can tell.

Pricing: The 42mm unit starts at £209 and the 46mm at £229. Higher prices basically give you swankier bands or materials. Shipping starts from Nov 10th.

Wrap-Up:

This could be an interesting option in the fitness market if the accuracy is as claimed – both on GPS and heart rate. If accurate, and if combined with the higher battery life for an AMOLED display that’s more than just a couple of days – that’s solid in this arena. Of course, the existing Watch 3 already had battery life and displays in those realms, so this isn’t new for Huawei. Though, the dual-frequency GPS and new optical HR sensor are new here.

In some ways though, I think this – along with COROS – serves as a bit of a proxy for what we should expect in 2022 from some of the bigger name endurance sports watch companies. Of course, Huawei is a huge brand globally, but not a huge brand in endurance sports. Certainly, these types of specs are trying to change that, and they are definitely tempting enough to give it a whirl and see where it fits in the greater sports scene.

With that – thanks for reading!

DC Rainmaker:

View Comments (37)

  • I was all excited when I saw a new post hoping for a Whoop 4.0, Oura Review, or a new Garmin device.

    Seriously though, it is looking like AMOLED is making real in roads with the sports watches that maybe we will see a Garmin Fenix or Forerunner watch with AMOLED in I guess 2022.

    • Battery life here is staggering.

      If an AMOLED fenix with even 10+ days of battery is possible, expect a whooole lot of “take my money”.

    • Fenix 7?

      Or will the Fenix 6 first go on Black Friday sales and then the Fenix 7 will be announced?
      They are a tad late compared to their release cycle.

    • I hope your Oura 3 review comes soon. I am very curious if its any better then whoop 4.0. Interestingly, it seems the Oura ring is coming in more expensive than whoop based on an 18 month subscription with easy to find 15% promo codes.

  • I'm certainly curious for a full review, but I suppose it's too much to hope that it's a true Apple Watch replacement, even for a casual user.

    Having that battery life in a relatively full-featured smart-watch would be a killer feature for me. Unfortunately with Apple Health I'm starting to feel locked into that ecosystem.

    • It won't be a true apple watch replacement as App won't let it reply to SMS and action notifications the way they allow their own watch.

      I'm still curious how Apple has been allowed to block basic functionality like that from companies including Garmin.

      They have shown it's possible with their own watch, however block all other brands, that hardly fosters competition.

    • Antitrust/Competition law is complicated, but there's generally no duty to deal with one's competitors. One's actions are more circumscribed if one has power in a particular market. If you have power in the handset market, for instance, then you aren't supposed to "tie" your product to other products in a market that's more competitive, as that allows you to leverage market power in one market into another. The SMS restriction, however, isn't a rigid tie. You can still use non-Apple wearables with iPhones. In the U.S., the SMS restriction would be analyzed under the "rule of reason," which involves balancing pro and anticompetitive impacts of a restriction. Apple would (correctly) point out that having complete control over all hardware and software connected to its systems allows it to have a reliable and seamless user experience that consumers REALLY value. (Versions of this argument are familiar in the annals of competition law.) Apple would almost certainly win, particularly in light of its relatively limited market share (compared to companies in other industries that historically have had far more market power) and consumer research regarding why people choose Apple.

  • As long as Huawei Health app still doesn’t allow to export workouts to any other platform, nor even a gpx or fit file, their watch comes pretty much dead in the fitness enthusiast realm.

    • Came here to say this. They actually make really nice hardware (I had the GT2) but with no export to other health platforms it's dead in the water.

      (I believe it's possible to bodge an export on Android but that shouldn't be necessary).

    • I don't believe this is any longer true on Harmony OS 2, which this runs straight out of the box on this watch, and some older wearables will upgrade to.

      What I want to know is whether Strava will be making a Harmony OS app ... there are already over 100M devices running it, which is likely to double within less than another year. So there's a compelling market for it. But whether they will is open to question; I couldn't get a straight answer out of them after contacting them.

    • There’s a script by an user that udoes it, extracting the workout file and converting it to gpx.

      Which shows its perfectly possible, but Huawei doesn’t care about

    • Good to know Eduardo. Yeah, if I can't export data easily, that's gonna grind a review to a halt pretty quick (both on logistical reasons, but also principals). I've long said I don't support islanded data scenarios.

    • I use the Hitrava script, it works well. Unfortunately, there is not much thanks in the recorded data.
      Compared to my Polar Vantage measurements, the GNSS track was too nice:
      the GNSS track on my GT2e is interpolated and it only has HR sample rate every 5 seconds.
      It's too bad because FirstBeat is supported on it and the hardware quality is light years ahead of Garmin.

    • Agree. The data belongs to the user, not the manufacturer. I understand they don’t have 3rd party integrations of any kind, but let me export the file and deal with it however I want.

    • Saying Huawei solded 100m+ devices so it is an interesting market for Strava might not add like you think

      Most of those 100m devices is soled in China and I don't know how blocked Strava is in China. It might just be not that interesting for Strava.

    • I'd be surprised if Strava supports it.

      The thing is that most of those 100m units are either in a landfill, or in China. Neither of which are strong Strava customer markets.

      That's somewhat the problem with bundled wearables (similar to what Samsung has done for years, pre-Wear OS 4). Strava can see the numbers, and knows that the vast majority of people that get a free wearable with their phone don't end up using it. And further, don't end up on Strava. That's compounded umpteen times over when we're talking a device that has territorial challenges in the US market.

    • Now available (at least for Android) is an third party app called "Health Sync" that can upload activities/steps/sleep/HR/weight/oxygen/etc from the Huawei Health app to Strava and Google Fit.

      I have been using it for ~2 months now and it works really well uploading data to Strava.

  • I bought recently a Huawei GT2e after several Garmins and Suunto. Latest was Fenix 5 and was a bit tired of the size (small wrists). The watch is pretty good for the price (129€). Screen and battery life are really amazing.

    • Unfortunately, I doubt it. I think we're just a bit uneasy planning something with 200 people packed into that space this year (which classed as industrial space doesn't exactly have the best ventilation out there). If we had a crystal ball on where infection rates will go over the next 8 weeks, it'd be easier.

      That said, we are considering maybe some sort of Christmas run or such outdoors, depending on how things go over the next 2-3 weeks.

      But we are eager to perhaps get things back to normal in the spring for sure!

  • Good mix of point challenges to Apple & Garmin territory. Not every one values high endurance batteries but structuring my day to arrange a recharge is inconvenient at times.

    The race for the perfect UX symbology for good health has yet another contender.

    • Realistically, there's nothing to check. Nothing one can check meaningfully. Sure, there could be data security issues at the watch level, but realistically in 2021, if you're referring to fitness and other data - it's more than likely at the cloud provider level.

      The data goes to Huawei's cloud platform, and you can decide (as with any other provider), whether or not you trust that platform.

      At the watch level, undoubtedly folks have looked at the traffic/data being sent to Huawei's platform over the years, mostly from the phone side - and typically those conclusions are that it sends a ton of data back to their platform. Just like apps from Google, Facebook, and others do.

  • Minor technical point, but since this is a "tech" site, might as well keep it real. Lenses (Fresnel and otherwise) direct, aim, and even concentrate light, but don't amplify light.

  • It looks like a great device.

    But the inability to properly export data and moral reasons around supporting a Chinese company mean I just can't consider this.

  • i'm not interested about dual-frequency tech. it means huawei will use airoha chipset (or you can say MTK) that is bit of... you know i didn't trust mtk chipset, they never rise above SiRF Star. i miss v800 so bad.
    dual-frequency may fix gps issue in urban area, but it's not the time. no matter the chipeset or their firmware have no been its best yet.
    the real exciting thing is huawei decide to do their own algorithms. they released TruSport 1.0 at Q1 this year. it may not be good enough, but i never doubt about their scientific research capabilities. Polar CN told me huawei made large purchase of Polar H10, and established top sport laboratory.
    huawei watch may not be Tier 1 watch, but TruSport will be T1 algorithm.

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